A Colossus of the Deep

Squid1

In the late November of 1861, just off the coast of Tenerife, the French steamer Alecton was cruising its way toward Cayenne when the lookout on duty called out.

Beside the ship, partly submerged beneath the waves, was what appeared to be a giant sea monster. It had several long arms, and a large, torpedo-shaped body.

The captain, one Commanduer Bouger, ordered his crew to open fire with the boat’s cannons.

Over the course of the next two hours, the Alecton scored several direct hits on the creature’s rubber-like body, which they estimated at over six metres in length.

Whilst the aquatic beast did react to the blows, it was not put off by them, merely diving several times and each time resurfacing closer to the boat.

Eventually the crew were able to harpoon the creature and lasso a rope around its body, but when they attempted to haul it aboard, its weight was so great it caused the rope to tighten and cut the beast in two.

Only the tail end of the creature made it on-board the Alecton, the rest sank beneath the waves without a trace.

Commandeur Bouger took the section of tail back to the French Consulate on Tenerife. From there it travelled to the French Academy of Sciences, accompanied by the Commandeur’s report on the incident.

The representatives of the Academy resoundingly mocked the tale of the crew of the Alecton. To them, serious men of serious science do not believe in the existence of such creatures. As one member stated: ‘it is against the very laws of nature herself.’

But in these more ‘enlightened’ times, it is possible to surmise that this fearsome creature the crew of the Alecton did battle with was, in fact, a colossal squid.

Though they are rarely sighted, and little is known of their habits, it is widely accepted in scientific fields that such squid exist.

The only example ever captured alive was caught in 2007 in the South Pacific Ocean, and measured a total of five metres from its posterior fins to the tips of its two longest feeding arms.

Whilst this in itself is impressive, the beak of this specimen was significantly smaller than the beaks of other colossal squid that have been found in the stomachs of adult sperm whales, one of the creatures few predators.

This suggests that these squid can grow much, much larger.

Squid2

In the March of 1978, the USS Stein left San Diego, California and embarked on a journey around South America, calling at ports in Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.

Somewhere along its journey, the USS Stein collided with something very large in the ocean waters. Immediately after the impact, the ship began to experience massive technical failures, culminating in the ship’s sonar system being rendered useless. Aware of the danger of attempting to carry on without it, the captain ordered the vessel to head for the Long Beach Naval Dockyard.

The ship was sent to a dry-dock so maintenance could be carried out. A highly skilled team of engineers set about repairing the damage, but when they reached the sonar dome they found considerable damage to its thick rubber coating. By their estimates, ten per cent of the dome was covered in deep scratches. Within these cuts were curved hooks, like those found within the suction cups of squid, but substantially larger.

A leading marine biologist was summoned to examine these gashes and hooks. She concluded that they did indeed come from a squid, but a squid much larger than any ever seen before.

By her estimate, the creature would have to be at least 70 metres long.

Ship1

There has been tales of monstrous cephalopods in the murky depths as long as there have been men out on the waves, and I believe cases like these validate my opinion that, just because the majority of evidence for something is merely anecdotal, it is not automatically true that such things do not exist.

Indeed, time always reveals the truth.

It is interesting however to note that the crew of the USS Stein were under the impression that they had collided with a submarine that fateful day, and even when confronted with the gashes in the rubber covering the sonar dome (an extremely resilient substance, and one not easily damaged) and the US Navy’s own report, refused to believe that they were, in fact, attacked by an unseen monster from the deep.

This may be the only example in recorded history of the government backing the more ‘fantastic’ explanation, and the actual witnesses on the ground, so to speak, siding with the mundane.

In 1992 the USS Stein was transferred to the Mexican Navy and renamed the ARM Allende. One can only speculate as to whether this was some bored naval administrators cheeky homage to one Carlos Allende, of Project Rainbow and the Philadelphia Experiment* notoriety.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* Once again, the Philadelphia Experiment pops up! The good doctor also mentioned this in his report on A Figure on Hack Green – C.R. 

 

‘Little Tricks’ Beneath the Old Angel

Angel1

Located in the area known as the Lace Market, The Old Angel public house has stood for over 500 years, silently watching over Nottingham as it evolved from a small Anglo-Saxon settlement to the metropolitan city we see today.

The pub itself has a long and turbulent history, variously serving as a brothel, a meeting place for Luddites and Druids, and a live music venue for more ‘raucous’ acts. Recently taken over by new management and rechristened the Angel, it is currently quite an appealing prospect for the casual drinker.

In the winter of 2011 the pub was also chosen by a local student as the location for an investigation into the effects of fear, an investigation that came to a most unexpected conclusion.

AngelMap1

9th April 2015

I meet Cressida Smith in a quiet coffee shop a short walk up from Nottingham’s Market Square. Four years ago, she was studying psychology at Nottingham Trent University.

We share a pot of tea and I ask her to tell me about the night of the experiment. Confident and concise, she has the manner of someone who does not suffer fools gladly. However, the first sentence she speaks on the matter is one tinged with regret.

“Please bear in mind, Dr Gotobed, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

I ask her to start from the beginning.

“The idea was a simple one; an experiment designed to investigate the power of suggestion, specifically if a sense of fear could be created by placing an unsuspecting subject into an environment they already believed was haunted. It was to be the topic of my dissertation, and I was very interested to see what would happen. I put a lot of work into it.

“The first point of business was to find a suitable location, one with enough history and a bit of a back story I could work with. I chose the Angel pub in Hockley. Even a cursory search on the internet will bring up stories of a murdered prostitute that apparently haunts the bar. Add to that the fact the building has two unused floors along with an entrance to the underground cave system that’s below the city.

“I was also good friends with the landlord, Steve Wilson. I recruited him to lay it on thick with all kinds of stories of stuff that had happened to him since he’d moved in. Weird noises, objects going missing, doors closing on their own, all that spooky jazz.

“All bullshit, of course. At least, I think it was.

“The plan was to strap a heart monitor to the subject’s wrist to measure changes in their heart activity, and also to give them a small ticker device with which to click every time they believed they were in the presence of anything they considered ‘paranormal’. Oh, and a lapel microphone so they could narrate and record their feelings.

“The landlord and I were to take the subject on a tour of the building, after hours of course. My plan was to hang back and take notes, whilst Steve would elucidate the history of the pub. Hamming it up a little, as you can imagine.

“Then the subject and I were to descend into the caves below the bar, ostensibly to hold a séance.

“In actual fact, I’d recruited another person, a family friend with experience in theatrical special effects. He was going to rig up something special for me down in the cave, something suitably scary.”

AngelUpstairs1

The individual in question was one Jonas Wang, a veteran of the stage with fifteen years’ experience in the audio-visual arts. A tall and wiry man, he speaks quickly and is obviously full of enthusiasm for his craft.

I meet Mr Wang in the bar of the Theatre Royal, where he is currently working on the installation of a touring rendition of Bram Stoker’s classic ‘Dracula’.

Over sandwiches and a bottle of wine, he tells me of his role in Ms Smith’s ‘investigation’.

“Yeah, Cressie’s father and I go way back, and when she asked me to give her hand I really had to say yes. But when she told me what it was for, I was initially a bit sceptical. I mean, is it even legal, scaring the crap out of someone?

“But when she explained it was for science, and gave me a few more details, I must admit, it definitely whetted my appetite. It was a challenge, to say the least.

“And I love a challenge.” 

He smiles widely.

“I spent about a week or so drawing up a plan and gathering various gadgets and ‘little tricks’. I got hold of a couple of mini speakers, the kind with wicked bass response. Real teeth rattlers, if you know what I mean. I also got a little smoke machine and some red LEDs, along with some fine fishing wire. That was so I could move some small, carefully placed objects around, if the situation called for it.

“I spent a good few hours down in that cave the night before Cressie was going to do her experiment. I really went to town on this. Especially considering I wasn’t getting paid.

“The idea was for me to sit, hidden away, in the adjoining cave, out of sight. I could trigger all my gear from there.

“But would you believe it, but when the actual night came, I ended up stuck on the side of the A453 with a dead engine.

“A recovery vehicle had told me it was on its way, so I called Cressie and told her I was running a little late.”

AngelUpstairs2

Ms Smith continues:

“I put an ad up on the internet, on the University site, asking for volunteers. With a cash reward, of course.

“I got about thirty applicants, which, after an extensive review, I managed to whittle down to just the one; a Mrs Regina Carr. She was a forty four year old housewife from nearby West Bridgford. Two kids, down to earth, smart. And crucially, she had no experience of the paranormal, but an interest in such things.

“She was perfect.

“I got her to sign the relevant paperwork and told her the date and time, keeping up the whole pretence, of course.

“At about eleven on the night of the experiment, just before Mrs Carr was due to arrive, I got a phone call from Jonas saying he was going to be about half an hour late. I could deal with that, I’d just make the tour around the pub last a little longer and he could get into position whilst we were upstairs. As I understood it, he was ready to go, anyway.

“I must add, Dr Gotobed, Jonas hadn’t told me about any of the stuff he’d set up down there. I didn’t want my actions to pre-empt anything for the subject, subconsciously or otherwise. 

“Mrs Carr arrived and got comfortable in the now closed bar. Steve fetched her a cup of coffee and we made some small talk. I asked her to turn her phone off, so we got no distractions. I did the same. There was no word from Jonas, so I assumed he was on his way. One of the bar staff was due to let him in anyway.

“After about twenty minutes we began the tour upstairs. I must confess, by torchlight, with all those boarded-up windows, the cramped corridors, the boarded up windows, and the faded graffiti, even I found the upper levels a little unnerving. And, my word, Steve can spin a tale. I had to keep prompting Mrs Carr to use her ticker and narrate how she was feeling.

“The experiment was proving to be quite successful; it was quite obvious she was, let’s say, ‘unsettled’.

“It took us about twenty five minutes to cover the whole of the upstairs. I was pretty confident that Jonas was in place, and as we descended the stone steps into the caves I saw a figure step back in to the shadows. I remembering thinking that had to be him.

“We sat down in the cave I’d assigned for the mock séance. I’d laid some rugs out on the floor and put a couple of tall candles out for effect. There was a large stone between us that had looked like it had been carved out of the earth.

“I sat opposite the subject and told her I was going to summon the spirits using a traditional method I had been taught as a child. Truth be told, it was just a hotch–potch of things I’d read on Google.

“Mrs Carr had gone almost silent by that point, there was only the sound of the ticker in her hand. I reminded her again to narrate how she was feeling, and not to worry about talking over me.”

AngelUpstairs3

The following is a transcript from the audio recorded by Mrs Carr from that night. They had been in the cave for ten minutes by this point, with Ms Smith performing her fake ritual.

Cressida Smith: Please remember to put into words how you feel, Mrs Carr.

Regina Carr: It’s very cold in her. But it’s not like actual cold. It’s weird. It feels like a breeze blowing just above the floor. What is that? 

[unintelligible murmuring from CS, part of her ‘séance’]

RC: I’m scared. Do you feel that?

CS: Feel what?

RC: Like we’re being watched. Oh my God this place is just… just wrong.

[a single click, followed by thirty or so seconds of silence]

RC: There! Look, can you see, there’s a shape in the corner. In the shadows. A woman looking at us. Oh my God, what does she want?

[the sound of wind blowing across the microphone]

[several clicks]

RC: Tell me you see that, Cressida. Tell me you feel that. Why is she looking at me like that? What does she want?

[more clicking]

RC: I don’t want to do this anymore. Seriously, I think we should stop now. Please can we stop?   

[the sound of stone scraping against stone]

[a third voice, female, moaning] 

[rapid clicking]

CS: Please remain seated, Mrs Carr.

RC: Oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God… 

[Several large banging sounds can be heard on the tape, followed by a single, much louder cracking noise]

RC: Fuck this. This is fucked up. You can keep your damn money.

CS: Mrs Carr, please remain seated. The experiment is almost-

RC: Oh my God, she’s coming this way. Who’s there? Who are you? What do you want-

[several screams, followed by three minutes of static] 

CS: [breathless] Experiment bought to an end at eleven fifty seven pm.

Ms Smith tells me that there was another presence down there with them in that cave. At the time, she thought it was one of Mr Wang’s ‘little tricks’.

AngelCaves1

Mr Wang picks up the story:

“I never made it to the Angel that night. When the recovery vehicle got to me, he didn’t have the right parts to fix my car, so I had to wait for a tow truck. I tried to ring Cressie again, but her phone must’ve been switched off. I heard from her about an hour, an hour and a half later, when she called me and asked me where I’d gone. She was going on about what a good job I’d done.

“But I hadn’t done anything. I’d been stood in the rain by the side of the ring road.”

AngelCaves2

Mrs Carr fled the Angel that night, apparently almost taking the door off its hinges in her efforts to leave the building.

Ms Smith did her best to contact her in the following days, but found her attempts where in vain. She posted a cheque to Mrs Carr’s house, but it was returned, uncashed.

She goes on to say that she did see a figure down in the cave, and she did feel the breeze and hear the banging sounds, the last of which was apparently the stone in the centre of the cave cracking.

A large split can still be seen in that stone.

Ms Smith was initially under the impression that Jonas Wang had not only done his job, but performed substantially above and beyond what was expected of him.

It was only after she spoke to him later that night that she realised this was not the case.

Jonas Wang collected his equipment the next day, not wishing to linger inside the cave for any longer than was absolutely necessary.

All of his ‘little tricks’ were switched off and untouched.

Ms Smith never finished her degree.  She left Trent University the following week and went to work for her father.

She assures me that she has never spoken of the events of that winter night to anyone.

AngelCaves3

The first explanation I reached for in this case was the effect of infrasound, a low frequency hum that can be created by the underground movement of water. It is inaudible to the human ear, but several papers (such as the one written by Vic Tandy in 1998*) suggest that these sound waves can elicit a curious effect on the brain, causing hallucinations and feelings of dread.

Considering the location of the caves beneath the Angel, one can speculate that infrasound was the cause of whatever Mrs Carr, and indeed Ms Smith, experienced that night.

However, this does not explain the splitting of the stone in that particular cave. Having spoken to the landlord of the building, the same Mr Wilson mentioned earlier, still in-situ at the Angel, it seems that the stone was intact before the experiment.

Time permitting, it is my recommendation that Ms Smith’s investigation is repeated.

I also recommend that a little more compassion is shown toward whomever is chosen as the subject.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Vic Tandy’s paper can be found here, and it’s certainly very interesting. I’d like to add that the Angel is a pub I am familiar with (they pull a mean pint!) and I have heard from the bar staff rumours about the night a woman saw a ghost in the caves and almost kicked the door down to get out – C.R. 

A Figure on Hack Green

HazMatSuit1

Military installations have a long history of supernatural activity, ranging from the shade of a dead pilot at the training facility HMS Daedulas who returned for one last photograph with his comrades in 1919, to the shadowy apparition of a suicidal marine that stalked the hallways of Forward Operating Base Ripley in Afghanistan in late 2005.

But sometimes the activity appears to bear little relevance to any event that actually took place at the location in question.

In September of 1940, the German air-force, the Luftwaffe, began their bombing campaign against Great Britain.

Following the flattening of Coventry in November of the same year, the British government began the creation of what came to be known as ‘starfish’ sites. Consisting of a series of lights and controlled fires designed to simulate burning cities, the purpose of these sites was to confuse the Luftwaffe in to dropping their ordnance over the countryside and away from their intended targets.

One such site was at Hack Green in Cheshire.

After the war was over, Hack Green was modernised and upgraded to become part of the British government’s air defence infrastructure. A radar station was added, alongside a rather substantial concrete bunker, built half into the earth. The site was then used to provide air traffic control to military planes that crossed into civil airspace.

With the advent of the Cold War, the Home Office took control of Hack Green, designating the newly reinforced bunker as a ‘Regional Government Headquarters’, just one example of a network of sites that would allow the government to continue to operate in the aftermath of a nuclear strike on the UK.

In 1992, with the end of the Cold War, Hack Green stood empty for a couple of years, before a private concern took over the site and opened it to the public as a museum, housing a large collection of military memorabilia.

It is rumoured, as most buildings with such history are, to be haunted by the usual apparitions of noisy service-men and women.

But it is not the usual apparitions that concern us today.

In early 2011, a most unusual shade began to make itself known.

MapHG1

15th February 2011

Richard ‘Dicky’ Cole is an elderly man, but surprisingly sprightly for his age. Since the death of his wife five years ago, he spends his days on the fields of Cheshire, sweeping the muddy earth with his trusty metal detector.

He joins me for a pint in the nearby Barrel & Tap, and after some small talk he shares his experience of a fortnight ago.

“My kids don’t like me being out there in all weathers. ‘You’ll catch your death’, they always say. But it’s my life now. It’s what I do.

“The only thing I’ve ever found out there was an old Roman coin. I gave it to the local museum. Like a prat. An honest prat, at least. I wish I’d kept it now. That’s why I do it. That’s why I go out there in all weathers. I’d like something to hang on to, a little piece of history.

“Do you think that sounds odd?”

I assure him I do not.

“Well, I’ve been out on those fields for some months now, and it’s a big ol’ space. I was getting to the last part, the bit nearest the bunker. I’d left that until the end. There’s a lot of crap around there. Litter and the like.

“That’s when things got weird.”

How so?

“Well my detector is normally silent. It’ll only beep when I sweep it over something metallic. But that day… that day it was just making weird noises in my headphones. Like the sound of a respirator or someone breathing heavily. There was also this kind of… chattering, I guess it was, like a voice. Unintelligible. Like it was far away.

“I listened to it for a bit. Then I just gave up. Thought I’d go and get some fish and chips. I’ve not been back. I don’t have time for that.

“I’m putting it down to sodding Japanese engineering. I’d dread to think there’s another reason for those sounds, whatever they were.”

Mr Cole kindly lent me his metal detector for an afternoon. I was unable to recreate the sounds he heard that day.

Trees1

17th February 2011

Alexa Lewis is a musician local to Cheshire. Twelve days ago she was out on the fields near Hack Green with a friend, there to take some promotional photos for her newest release.

She invites me to her flat for a pot of tea, and, in measured tones that suggest a cynicism quite advanced for her age, she relates her experience.

“I was out near the bunker with Sebastian. He’s a lad I met at college. He’s doing photography, and he said he’d do my shoot as a favour, as he’d be getting some shots for his portfolio as well. Between me and you, I reckon he was just trying to get into my pants.

“I had my guitar with me, and we’d taken a few pictures already. Sebastian suggested I sit on the fence and get some shots with the bunker behind me. Something about horizontal lines, or some other bullshit.

“I’ll level with you, Dr Gotobed. I was getting a bit of sick of the whole charade by that point.

“Sebastian said to say ‘cheese’, so I gave him my best smile. I was pretty confident that would be the one. I was quite keen go home.

“I asked him ‘how was that?’

“He took another photo, then looked down at his camera and frowned.

“I went over to him to see what was wrong. He said there was some kind of artefact on the photo.

“Now, I have no idea what he meant by that, but apparently it was some kind of ‘digital mistake’. He showed me the first picture on the screen of his camera, and there was this odd kind of yellow ‘blob’ on there, behind me.

“Then he scrolled to the second picture, and there was the yellow shape but bigger. It was definitely a person, dressed in some kind of, I don’t know, like a… a radiation suit? It had a black plate of glass over its face. And it was reaching out for me, just over my shoulder.

“I remember a chill running down my spine when I saw it.

“Sebastian held up his camera to the bunker again and took another photo. This time the figure in yellow was right in front of us. And it was tall.

“But there was no-one else anywhere near us.

“That’s it, we were done. We jumped in Sebastian’s car and drove off. I’ve not heard from him since. Which is a shame. I’d like to see those photos again.

“Not the creepy ones, though. Just the others.”

Ms Lewis gave me the contact details for Sebastian. As of today, my phone calls and emails have gone unanswered.

Field2

19th February 2011

Natasha Barker is a teaching assistant from Hounslow. Ten nights ago, she and her significant other, one Clive Bono, had booked an evening ‘ghost walk’ at the Hack Green bunker.

I meet Ms Barker in a small café in west London, where she orders tea and cake for both of us and explains, in admirably animated fashion, how she doesn’t believe in ghosts, but the so-called ‘ghost walk’ seemed like it might be a fun idea.

“Clive’s always up for trying new things. We both decided to stop drinking a few years ago, so we’re always on the lookout for fun stuff to do that are a little, you know, ‘wacky’.

“There was a small group of us outside the bunker waiting for the guide. He showed up about ten minutes later and stood in front of the door. It was cold, and we were all wanting to get started.

“The guide, though, he’s got other ideas. He’s just standing in the doorway giving us the history of the place. It was interesting, but it would’ve been nicer to have been inside, in the warm!

“Whilst the guide is jabbering away, and Clive’s doing his best to make me giggle, there comes this knock on the door behind the guide. A really, really loud knock. Like ‘clank clank clank’.” 

She raps her knuckles hard on the table between us.

“The guide turned around, and the door behind him opened. Now that door was made of metal, and it looked heavy. Like, really heavy.

“Next thing we know, this tall figure dressed in a yellow, kinda, haz-mat suit was there. I couldn’t make out a face, the glass plate in the helmet was too dark. And there was this breathing. It sounded like Darth Vader.

“It moved towards us, out of the bunker. The group split, and this giant guy in yellow walked between us, still making that breathing sound, and then it just ‘disappeared’. One moment there, the next, gone.”

She clicks her fingers and waves her hands in the air.

“We thought it was all part of the tour, so we turned back to the guide and the whole group started clapping. Clive was going up to the guide to ask him how they managed to make it look so real.

“But the guide fainted.

“We later found out that it was nothing to do with the tour at all.

“Like I said, Doctor Gotobed, I don’t believe in ghosts, but that? That was spooky.” 

I contacted the management at Hack Green, seeking an interview with the guide from that night. A cordial young man at the museum confirmed that the guide in question did indeed lose consciousness that night and was taken to hospital.

He has since moved away and is unwilling to speak with me.

Bunker1

According to official records, no deaths ever occurred at Hack Green during its operational days. It is also interesting to note that the radiation suits stored at the site were (once again, according to official records), never used for anything more than emergency drills. Those suits were also not fitted with the type of respiratory equipment that would make the kind of wheezing noises that were heard by Mr Cole and Ms Barker.

So what is the nature of this soul which appears so keen to reach out to the living?

This is a question I am unable to answer. All I can do is monitor the site and hope it tries again.

There is, however, a curious aside to all of this.

During my research I contacted an acquaintance of mine at the Ministry of Defence. She passed a file to me which, whilst heavily redacted, details an experiment named ‘Project Sunlit Uplands’ that took place at Hack Green.

Papers1

From the little information I can glean from this censored report, it appears this project had parallels with the now discredited ‘Philadelphia Experiment’* of 1943.

The date ‘Sunlit Uplands’ took place? 1993, when Hack Green was apparently empty.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* More information on The Philadelphia Experiment can found on Wikipedia here, but beware, it’s a whole new level of batshit. I managed to disappear down this particular internet rabbit hole for a good few days, don’t blame me if you do the same! – C.R.